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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe

August 10th, 2011

Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Burn Notice began its fifth season recently, but between seasons four and five, there was a TV movie released. The Fall of Sam Axe was a prequel showing how Sam Axe became an ex-Navy seal, like he is in the show. Will this movie appeal to fans of the TV series? Will it have a larger crossover appeal? Or was it a missed opportunity?

The Movie

The film begins with Sam Axe being led to his debriefing, but the proceedings look surprisingly similar to a trial. It seems his last mission didn't go exactly as planned with a little too much death and destruction for the brass, and he's going to have to explain himself.

His mission began as the result of getting caught with the admiral's wife. (In his defense, he didn't know she was married.) Sam Axe is ordered to Colombia on an unenviable, but relatively simple mission. A new group is causing trouble in the countryside and Sam's job is to observe on the situation and report back to Washington, D.C. telling them if the U.S. needs to send military aid. A terrorist group, Espada Ardiente, is planning on attacking a hospital run by Doctors for All. That's a pretty low target to choose, and not part of their usual M.O., but it is in a strategically important location. Sam and his Colombian counterpart, Comandante Veracruz, head off to the mountains to warn the hospital. But when they get there, the two doctors, Ben Delaney and Amanda Maples are less than happy to see them. They've heard no rumors of a pending attack, but if they weren't a target before, they will be with the military hanging around.

It doesn't take long before Sam finds out that his mission is going to be a lot more complicated than it initially seemed, as ... That would be too much of a spoiler.

The Fall of Sam Axe is obviously aimed at fans of Burn Notice, which is an amazing show. One of the strengths of the show is each season has a big story and each episode usually has something that moves that story along. Unfortunately, because this is a one-off TV movie, it doesn't have the sense of being part of something bigger. Also, because it is a prequel, you know Sam Axe is going to make it out of the adventure unharmed. (Or relatively unharmed.) Those are the two main quibbles I had with the film.

The good news is, those were really the only two quibbles I had. Admittedly, the movie is not among the best Burn Notice has to offer, but it is still a fun mix of action and humor. It's sprinkled with great one-liners, a few references to the show, not to mention a couple references to Evil Dead. The action is very well done and as is the norm for the show, there's plenty of gun fights and explosions. Bruce Campbell is, well, Bruce Campbell, and that's always a great thing. The rest of the cast is also strong, with Ilza Rosario being a pleasant surprise. She was a local actress and was a lucky find by the filmmakers. I'm not the only one who would like to see her return to the show in some form. (Guest shot, recurring character, etc.)

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary with Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, and Matt Nix. It's an excellent mix of information and entertainment, and the trio clearly have fun together. The Fall of Jeffrey Donovan is a faux behind-the-scenes featurettes that documents the mental breakdown suffered by Jeffrey Donovan while making the movie. They do sneak some actual behind-the-scenes footage into the movie, and there are interview clips with the main cast, but it's mostly there to service the joke. It is a funny joke. Up next is a couple of deleted scenes that run just over 1 minute combined. Finally, there's the Burn Notice panel at the 2010 ComicCon, which is worth checking out.

The Blu-ray doesn't have any additional extras, but it does look and sound great on High Definition. It is a TV movie, so I'm judging it compared to other TV movies and there are some minor problems here and there. But for the most part, the details are sharp, the contrast is good, colors pop. (It was shot on HD, so that helps.) The audio is likewise better than most made for TV productions with the surround sound speakers getting a workout in numerous battle scenes and the bass contributes when it can.

As for the price, the Blu-ray costs just over 20% more than the DVD, which is a good deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

I think Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe might have gotten a little over-hyped before its release and while it might not be the best the show has to offer, it is still solid entertainment that should please fans of show and / or Bruce Campbell. There are not a huge amount of extras, but the quality is high enough that the DVD and the Blu-ray are worth picking up, with the latter being a better deal over the former.

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